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Editors’ Note: When I stumbled on this story, I just knew that I had to share. The story of Ogechi Stella Njoku is not just awe-inspiring, it is amazing. But that’s not why we’re sharing this here. It’s for those who are on the verge of quitting, who don’t see any hope in their situations…don’t ever quit! Stay strong and hold on. Just hold on. We shared the story as is and didn’t edit anything for authenticity.
MY VISION IS MY DRIVING FORCE:
I was born into the family of Eight Children, and I was the last born but unfortunately I lost Seven of my Senior Siblings, making me an only child.
I lost my father too, as a child, hence I was singlehandedly trained by my mother.
My mother was a petty trader who hawks on different seasonal fruits, ranging from oranges, avocado peers, banana, etc and when in out of season, she trades on kola nuts.
While growing up, I watch my mother cries every night, her pains was greater than I could imagine, I couldn’t proffer solution, all I could say then whenever she cries was “Aunty ndo kwanu” (Aunty sorry) yes, I calls my mother Aunty till date.
The pains of losing her Seven Children one after the other to the cold hands of death was excruciatingly great to her heart, to a point she almost lost hope that she had me. At any little experience, she would wish she wasn’t living, she often makes reference to them.
I grew up as a very stubborn child, my stubbornness and street fight always makes her remember her late children, she felt if they were alive, my excesses would have be tamed by them. So I kept hearing her making references to what the dead children would have been to her, her pains birthed my VISION. Gradually, I started feeling her pains too, even as a growing teenage who doesn’t know what future holds for her, I assured her and reassured her each time she cries that “I WILL BE TO HER, WHAT THE SEVEN DEAD CHILDREN WOULD HAVE BEEN TO HER”.
My growing up was liken unto hell, I would hawk from 6am-9am before going home to prepare for school, immediately after school, I would hit the street again to hawk, that was our only source of livelihood, the proceeds were used for our feeding and my school fees and books, during holidays, my effort triples. My Hawking experience became bitter when I was deflowered by raped at 16, in 1996, I lost my virginity. Nothing could be done to the guy who did it because his father was the chairman of one of the local government in IMO state then, so my mother dare not raise such accusations against the high and mighty. My experience became more bitter when I was raped for the second time by gangs of men in pretence of trying to buy my market, they successful cornered me and over powered me at Ekeonunwa market Owerri. I hated hawking, my passion for education grew, my dream to become someone influential and rich grew, my vision for life became my burning desire. I was determined by quest to take care of my mother and make her proud, hence I wasn’t ready to allow any challenges deter it. I kept pushing on.
I had a vision to be great, and rich. I was passionate about education, the fact that I didn’t have who would see me through my academics didn’t make me loose hope.
After my secondary education in 1997, I journeyed to Lagos in 1998, life was hell, at a point, I lived in an uncompleted building for over a year without anyone knowing that someone lives in there, because I would leave there as early as 4 am to go to where I worked as sales girl with a salary of 3,000 and would come home very late, the supermarket I worked for, used to close by 10pm, before I would get home, it would be 11pm.
When I had a change of work, I worked for Linar Pharmacy at Salvation road Opebi, Ikeja. Seeing my boss children who were schooling at University of Lagos, my enthusiasm for education and good life intensifies the more. I reassured myself of my dreams of becoming a graduate. Then I knew I won’t just sit down and dream, I need to take an action but the nature of the job am doing and where I live was my stumbling block, but I took a decision to enroll into computer school, hence I changed my job of a sales girl to a cleaner, so that I could attend my computer school.
While in computer school at Allen avenue, Ikeja, I became very close to one of my course mate “Late Akpa Elina Odachi” (may her soul Rest in Peace) whose father was a Soldier and mother was a mobile Police Officer, they were living in Sam Ethan Air force Base, Ikeja. She noticed that I was living in an uncompleted building, and sought to know why, I explained, she highlighted the dangers of me staying in there, should area boys became aware. So she suggested to take me to her parents in the barracks, that was how my how my journey to the barracks started. Her parents accepted me, I became a member of their lovely family. Her friends became my friends too, life became sweet.
Life in the barracks was sweet till I started dating a Soldier, pregnancy came, children came, no marriage, the sweetness of my soul was taken away, I was abused both by the father of my kids and his relatives. I was abandoned, in fact the soldier worked his posting out, that was how I started Hawking again, joined cleaning work to it, to sustain myself and kids, in 2005 I decided to become a soldier through recruit, I bought the Air Force form, took my kids home to my mother. It was in the course of medicaI screening, they found out that I was pregnant again for my soldier boyfriend again, hence I was dropped. All hope to good life were lost. My soldier friend still insisted that there will be no marriage, even if I born king David, and me, I love children, I saw them as brothers even though they were my children.
My suffering was raised to powered to three, the sisters of the father of my kids would mock me, each time they saw me Hawking oranges in the street of Oshodi, Lagos or they saw me sweeping the blocks of barracks, my sight was irrigating to them, they hated me with passion, they concluded that I wanted to entangled their younger brother with pregnancy to gain marriage, they were all graduates, I was just a waec holder, cum an orange seller and a cleaner. The disparities between us were much, the gap was too much, they saw nothing good in me but the ability to get pregnant and have children. Their constant mockery was a reminder to my ambitions.
In 2007, I doubled my cleaning work alongside my Hawking business with the view of saving more money to go to school even if it is on part time bases. I would sweep the barracks and wash the gutters from 4am – 5:30 am, moved straight to oshodi market to buy my oranges before 6:30am, then prepare before 7:30 am to Pacific Access Limited, to clean their office, by 9am I am through with all cleaning work, I would go home, rest till 12pm, then wash my oranges, and hit the streets for my Hawking business. Some days, I would make sales ranges from 3,000-5,000 per day, then get monthly salary of 5,000 for cleaning the barracks, also 5,000 from cleaning Pacific Access limited office at no 4 Anike Apena street, off Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja, Lagos. Sometimes in a month I do have savings from incomes ranges of 30,0000-40,000. My hope for school started rising.
On August 29, 2007, i came to clean office as usual, I found a Wednesday Punch newspaper on my boss table, dated August 28, 2007, 1 flipped through the pages, I saw job advertisement for junior staff with minimum of Diploma and must be computer literate. I checked out for its location and organization, it was Abuja, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, National Headquarters, National Engineering Center. My instinct told me to apply, I came home and told everyone, they all discouraged me, except one officer, Warrant Officer Ogumuyiwa who encouraged me to try my luck. I did, passed the aptitude test and interview and was given the job.
assumed office on 16th November, 2007, that was beginning of my breakthrough. My dreams came true, I found favour among my colleagues, Management Staff and the entire organization favored and blessed me. In 2009, I gained admission to study Financial Accounting at Fidie Polytechnic Gboko, Benue state, I got my National Diploma in 2011, in 2012, I gained admission to study B. Sc. in Economics at University of Ibadan, Oyo state through Direct Entry. My dreams to become a graduate and take care of my mother came true against all odds, against all my failures and challenges, I conquered my fears and dismay.
I became a mother at age 22, a single mother of four children at age 28, started higher institution at age 29, owned a car at age 31, became an Oracle Database Certified Expert at 32, a landlady in Abuja at age 33, a graduate of Economics 2015/2016 at 36, established BDMG Resources Limited on 5th April, 2017, before my 37th Birthday. Currently writing my ICAN and ACCA Professional Certification Exams. Above all, I am still gainfully employed with the Nigerian Society of Engineers, “the engine room of my breakthrough”.
God is my all in all, His grace, favour and mercy was sufficient unto me and my enabler, my mother is my Rock, my children are my motivators, The Nigerian Society of Engineers (The best Organization) was my strength, and MY VISION WAS MY DRIVE.
My only regret was becoming HIV positive, but I thank God that all my children are NEGATIVE and their father is also NEGATIVE.
Surviving the reality of living with HIV became my greatest challenge, my worst nightmare, the thought was killing, the pains was excruciatingly great, better imagine than experiencing.
HIV is a management disease, and not a killer disease, it is the fear of stigmatization and discrimination that leads to living in self pity/denials which leads to AIDS, which is the killer. Fears, Stigmatization, Discrimination and AIDS are undoubtedly and convincingly the killer.
I conquered the FEARS (False Evidence Appears Real Sufficiently). I became adherent to my ARV, today I am gladly living positively healthy with my viral load undetectable and high CD4 count.
Join me to kill AIDS and reduce the spread of HIV to zero level by stopping Stigmatization and Discrimination.
Ogechi Stella Njoku © September 2, 2017
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